NCCU tops rival Aggies to thrill sold-out McDougald-McLendon
N.C. Central coach LeVelle Moton claimed he didn’t recognize his team at the start of Saturday’s showdown with rival N.C. A&T.
The Eagles were wide-eyed and erratic against a squad of experienced Aggies.
But Jeremy Ingram’s 3-pointer with 13:11 left in the second half allowed the Eagles to get their talons around their first lead of the game, a margin they wouldn’t relinquish in 51-47 win at sold-out McDougald-McLendon Gymnasium.
A&T had a 12-point lead in the first half, but NCCU cut it to three by halftime.
After that second-half 3 by Ingram gave NCCU a 38-37 lead, the Eagles got some stops and made critical buckets, including one by Emanuel Chapman to give NCCU a 47-44 lead with 1:18 left.
Chapman, who had seven assists, is a pass-first point guard in the truest sense, but he had a made-up mind when he drove from the wing all the way to the cup for two.
“It wasn’t really a set play,” Chapman said. “I’d seen the way they had been playing me the whole game, so I just wanted to attack. I felt like our offense was kind of shaky, or it just wasn’t flowing.”
Chapman wasn’t as steady with his ballhandling, committing a team-high seven turnovers.
NCCU, in fact, lost the ball 19 times, which is more than the 12 gaffes per game Moton has said he’d tolerate.
“To every rule is the exception,” Moton said. “If you would have told me prior to (the game) that we were going to have 19 turnovers, I would have said, ‘How bad are we going to lose?’ But one thing that paper and those box scores don’t measure is your heart.
“We just hung our hat on the defensive end of the floor, and I just told them if we don’t score and they don’t score, then we win,” Moton said.
A&T freshman Bruce Beckford (10 points) established himself early in the post to help give the Aggies a cushion that was uncomfortable to the Eagles.
NCCU junior Jeremy Ingram (14 points) said the Eagles began forcing the issue on offense to try to catch up with A&T.
“Sometimes you’ve got to just let it come to you, and that’s what he had to do,” Ingram said.
“In the first half, we were awful,” Moton said. “It was embarrassing at one point, and we just had to calm down.
“That’s what these rivalries do to you, man.”
At one point in the first half A&T was shooting 80 percent, and it’s not like NCCU to facilitate that sort of thing by giving up layups and open jumpers, Moton said.
The Eagles had a case of the nerves or something, and that included reliable guys like Ingram and fellow junior Stanton Kidd, as well as senior Ray Willis, Moton said.
“Stanton Kidd, he was wild,” Moton said. “Jeremy was wild. Ray was wild. Everything was just uncharacteristic.”
“I’ve never seen the gym this packed, but it wasn’t nervousness,” Kidd said. “I’m used to playing in gyms like this, so when I play in this I get hyped.
“That’s why I looked a little wild and erratic and out of control.”
Kidd settled down and scored 14 points.
The Eagles in general took a deep breath once their shots starting falling, Moton said.
A&T’s experience was something that Moton mulled over prior to the game.
“They’ve got seven seniors, and you can see that,” Moton said. “You saw that in the first half they were calm and collected, while we were like a jayvee basketball team running all over the place trying to do it by ourselves.”
The Aggies’ experience didn’t pay off for them at the foul line, where they were 6 of 19, and that’s the only thing A&T coach Cy Alexander would talk about after the game.
“My only comment is that we shot 31 percent from the free-throw line,” Alexander said. “That’s the ball game.”
NCCU shot 90.5 percent from the charity stripe, missing three out of 21 attempts.
Willis was a perfect 3 for 3 from the foul line, including the two free throws he hit with 19 seconds left in the game that pushed NCCU’s lead to four.
“When I step to the line, I’ve been there before,” Willis said. “That’s why you practice in the gym on those late nights, so in pressure moments, you’ve been here. You know it’s good.”
A&T got another basket from Adrian Powell before Ingram, with one second left on the clock, made two free throws to seal the deal and set up the avalanche of NCCU fans that spilled onto the court after the final horn sounded.
N.C. CENTRAL 51, N.C. A&T 47
Percentages: FG .383, FT .316. 3-Point Goals: 5-19, .263 (Underwood 2-3, Louisme 2-7, Powell 1-4, Buck 0-1, Witter 0-1, Middleton 0-3). Team Rebounds: 3. Blocked Shots: 2 (Witter 2). Turnovers: 12 (Upchurch 3, Louisme 3, Powell 2, Middleton 2, Beckford, Underwood). Steals: 10 (Beckford 3, Middleton 3, Louisme, Powell, Smith, Underwood). Technical Fouls: None.
Percentages: FG .400, FT .905. 3-Point Goals: 4-12, .333 (Ingram 2-5, Chapman 1-2, Galaya 1-2, Kidd 0-1, Houston 0-1, Willis 0-1). Team Rebounds: 6. Blocked Shots: 0. Turnovers: 19 (Chapman 7, Ingram 6, Willis 3, Kidd 2). Steals: 2 (Houston, Willis). Technical Fouls: None.
A—3,230. Officials—Jackie Sanders, Harold Harris, Haywood Bostic.